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#607463 - 07/30/02 11:58 PM SOUNDBOARDS: To replace or not
Dans Piano Service Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 43
Loc: Arvada, Co.
Hi, I am a technician whoe is somewhat new to rebuilding. I have asked several rebuilders this question and have got different responses. I want to know if it is a good idea to replace the soundboard when rebuilding a piano, even if it still has good crown and has very repairable cracks. One answer I received was that as a soundboard ages, the sound gets better like a violin does. So it is better to keep the origional board when possible. The other response was that after many years of use, the fibers in the wood break down and no longer transmit the sound as well. So, do replace the board when rebuilding. I would appreciate any opinions on this. Thanks

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#607464 - 07/31/02 12:24 AM Re: SOUNDBOARDS: To replace or not
reblder Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/21/01
Posts: 1237
Loc: Sherman Oaks, Calif.
First of all, you need to consider the particular piano in question. In this regard, the typical candidates are Steinways, Mason & Hamlins and a number of the European grands(Bechstein, Bluthner). The overall quality of the piano is superior enough to warrant the sort of investment you'd be making.

Then onto the condition of the board. If it's lost all or perhaps even most of the crown, we say replace. Another situation is where the amount of cracking is quite extensive. True, it might be less costly to shim but if the sound is also lacking in substance, then we'd favor replacement.

Which brings me to the last point I made, the issue of sound. Assuming you have a high quality piano to start with, if there is some doubt that the existing soundboard is doing sufficient justice to the sound(i.e., lack of adequate projection)then we're inclined to say replace.

All in all a rather labor intensive undertaking.
So you most assuredly have to take the above criteria into account before committing to it.

Mark Mandell
www.pianosource.com

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#607465 - 07/31/02 01:26 AM Re: SOUNDBOARDS: To replace or not
.rvaga* Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/14/02
Posts: 2046
Loc: Portland, Oregon
reblder (and anyone else that deals with soundboard replacement),

If you take the butt end of a rung tuning fork, and placed it in various places of a new soundboard not installed or prepped at all, I would imagine you would have a pretty strong tone produced by the flat board, yes?

Where I'm going with this. . . seems that if there were some way to measure the tone, like software which can "listen" and display overtones for voicing (Cybertuner?), then there could be a way devised to test soundboards before installation, to determine the general tone quality and overtone(s) potential. Or, generate a specific wave form (square, sawtooth, sine, etc.) and measure something. . . dump sand (OK, some sort of powder) on the soundboard, place a sound source in contact with the board, and note the pattern in the dusting of sand as it's rearranged by the vibrations. Lots of good ideas for fun (it would be interesting!), but none of them would probably mean anything.

Maybe I'm all wet on this, but the soundboard issue comes up on the forum again and again, and is the one major component of rebuilding that still seems rather cloaked in mystery. If someone could come up with a form of pre-"quality control" to determine which new boards would go best with what is trying to be accomplished in the rebuild (e.g., warm sound, fewer overtones, certain type of hammers/strings), it would be certain fame! \:\)

Or, a board is a board is a board. . .

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#607466 - 07/31/02 11:17 AM Re: SOUNDBOARDS: To replace or not
shantinik Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/23/01
Posts: 4271
Loc: Olympia, WA
Isn't this really more of a marketing issue than a technical one? (I'm not in any way a technician, so please allow me some leeway.)

If Mrs. Jones LOVES her 80-year-old Steinway in her 12-15 foot parlor, but recently has been unhappy with the occasional buzz, etc., but is worried that you'll change the sound, then even if there are lots of cracks in the soundboard, you'll likely choose to shim if you can. Less risk, and more likely a happy customer (who wouldn't know what she might be missing with a new soundboard in any case.)

If on the other hand, you are preparing an 80-year-old Steinway for resale, and think you can get more "oomph" with a new soundboard, the market will likely reward you for putting one in (even if the piano could very well do without it.) "Newly rebuilt, action, and soundboard replaced, as good as the day it was built!"

So it really isn't even an issue of sound. Nor even an technical issue -- or so it seems to me (ignoramus that I am.)

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#607467 - 07/31/02 02:16 PM Re: SOUNDBOARDS: To replace or not
Brian Lawson, RPT Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/04/01
Posts: 647
Loc: South Africa
Go to www.google.com and search for "pianos are not violins" site:ptg.org

(including the "'s)
_________________________
Brian Lawson, RPT
Johannesburg
South Africa

http://www.lawsonic.co.za

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#607468 - 07/31/02 03:59 PM Re: SOUNDBOARDS: To replace or not
bcarey Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/14/02
Posts: 3378
Loc: North Carolina
I hope this isn't too off the main topic. If so, do forgive me.

Must a soundboard be removed from the piano to be repaired?

Next question is probably a moot point if the answer is yes but here goes.

If the soundboard isn't removed can the area inside of the piano next to the soundboard be refinished without hurting the soundboard?

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#607469 - 07/31/02 07:06 PM Re: SOUNDBOARDS: To replace or not
SamLewisPiano.com Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/19/01
Posts: 635
Loc: WHITE BLUFF (Nashville area) T...
 Quote:
Originally posted by bcarey:

Must a soundboard be removed from the piano to be repaired?
Next question is probably a moot point if the answer is yes but here goes.
If the soundboard isn't removed can the area inside of the piano next to the soundboard be refinished without hurting the soundboard?[/b]
No, the board is not removed for repair. As far as refinishing, we mask off the board and carefully proceed, keeping the stripper and any chemicals off of the board. Would it hurt the board? No, it would just look terrible....Sam
_________________________
Since 1975; Full-time piano tuner/tech in Nashville;
Lacquer and polyester specialist.

www.SamLewisPiano.com

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#607470 - 07/31/02 07:46 PM Re: SOUNDBOARDS: To replace or not
SR Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/12/01
Posts: 718
Loc: Los Angeles
>>>Then onto the condition of the board. If it's lost all or perhaps even most of the crown, we say replace. <<<

Another perhaps dumb beginner question...

Spruce has no crown. Crown is induced in building the piano. Crown is slowly lost due to downforce from bridge. If the above statements are true why can new crown not be induced to an old soundboard ? I thought the crown was created by, and beld in place by, the ribs underneath, not by the soundboard itself.

Perhaps I am all wet, or just damp ?

Thanks

Steve
_________________________
www.mozartforum.com

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#607471 - 07/31/02 10:49 PM Re: SOUNDBOARDS: To replace or not
SamLewisPiano.com Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/19/01
Posts: 635
Loc: WHITE BLUFF (Nashville area) T...
Not a dumb question....Yes, crown can be introduced, and that will improve the tone if the board was flat. But, the wood fibers do compress over the years, and conventional wisdom says that a new fresh board will be the best choice, although it is not warranted for every piano or every budget...........Sam
_________________________
Since 1975; Full-time piano tuner/tech in Nashville;
Lacquer and polyester specialist.

www.SamLewisPiano.com

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#607472 - 08/09/02 03:04 PM Re: SOUNDBOARDS: To replace or not
Chris W1 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/26/01
Posts: 915
Loc: Boston
Mark,

Could you be more specific about the crown loss you'd associate with needing replacement? Where are you measureing and what benchmarks do you, and perhaps Niles, use?

TIA,
Chris W
_________________________
Amateur At Large

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#607473 - 08/09/02 09:56 PM Re: SOUNDBOARDS: To replace or not
Larry Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 9217
Loc: Deep in Cherokee Country
As has been said, there are two views on this subject. I am of the view that unless a board is in excellent shape it should be replaced. I agree with the view that wood fibers dry out and break down with age. As soundboards get old, this breaking down of the wood causes the board to sound "boomy" - just listen to most any old upright and you'll know what I mean. A new board is more resilient, and the tone is better balanced across the piano. Again, as someone said, it isn't like a violin.

As to how much crown (even though I wasn't asked the question) you need enough crown to have good even downbearing all across the piano. Any less is not enough. Any more is just extra.

Just my opinion, of course.
_________________________
Life isn't measured by the breaths you take. Life is measured by the things that left you breathless

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#607474 - 08/18/02 11:25 PM Re: SOUNDBOARDS: To replace or not
Chris W1 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/26/01
Posts: 915
Loc: Boston
Larry,

You can set bearing evenly on a board that has negative, or no, crown. Some rebuilders reset bearing with complete disregard to the curvature of the soundboard. While I aggree that soundboards should frequently be replaced, I am not sure I'd go with one on the basis of bearing, alone. Another opinion, I guess.

Rebldr, did you get my question on crown??

Chris
_________________________
Amateur At Large

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#607475 - 08/19/02 10:14 PM Re: SOUNDBOARDS: To replace or not
reblder Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/21/01
Posts: 1237
Loc: Sherman Oaks, Calif.
Chris--

The measurement to determine the presence or absence of crown is taken underneath the board. A thread is fastened to opposite ends alongside the longest rib. What we're looking for then is to see if there's a discernible gap between the thread and the underside of the board. If there were none AND the piano sounded on the feeble side AND it's a higher quality instrument, THEN we'd opt to replace.

Mark@pianosource.com

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